Sask. farmers fight to protect property

More cops, more cameras or more common sense?

What’s the best way to fight crime in rural Saskatchewan?

Questions related to rural crime generated plenty of discussion during the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities’ annual convention in Saskatoon last week, and some controversy as well.

SARM is one of the best barometers of public sentiment in rural Saskatchewan.

At its annual convention March 14-16, the organization welcomed more than 1,000 delegates — mostly elected reeves and councilors — from 296 RMs across the province.

And according to delegates attending the event, rural people are fed up with what they see as threats to their property and personal safety.

“For a lot of (rural people), I think it’s a concern about RCMP coverage itself,” said SARM president Ray Orb, when asked about delegates’ frustration.

“They don’t feel safe because there aren’t enough police out there to cover the whole province.…It’s (about having) the confidence that the RCMP are there and that when they’re called, they’ll be able to (show up) in a timely manner.

Added another delegate, who spoke on the condition of anonymity: “Policing in rural Saskatchewan is inadequate and the criminals know it.… People in remote areas have had enough.”

“They feel like they have no choice but to take matters into their own hands.”

At least 10 resolutions discussed at the convention were related to rural safety, crime prevention, rural policing and protection of private property.

The most controversial, introduced by the RM of Kindersley, urged SARM to lobby Canada’s federal justice department for changes that would give rural residents expanded “rights and justification” to defend themselves, their families and their properties.

That resolution received 93 percent support from voting delegates and prompted an emotional reaction from groups outside the convention hall.

The RM of Kindersley is not far from where 22-year-old Colten Boushie, a First Nations man from the Red Pheasant reserve, was shot and killed last August after he and a group of friends drove onto a farm yard near Biggar, Sask.

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Shortly after the Kindersley resolution was passed, the National Farmers Union issued a statement expressing deep concern and rejecting the notion of “wild west” vigilante justice.

“This resolution, put forward under the shadow of last summer’s tragic shooting of Colten Boushie … reveals the dangerous undercurrent of fear and aggression in rural Saskatchewan,” the NFU statement read.

“We, the NFU, affirm the value of people over property. We do not support the ongoing … violence that continues to damage the social fabric of Saskatchewan.”

Livestock thefts are an ongoing concern in the RM of Whiska in southwestern Saskatchewan.

Whiska reeve Kelly Williamson gained 95 percent support for a resolution that called on SARM to join the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association, the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association and Livestock Services of Saskatchewan in lobbying for RCMP resources to be dedicated to dealing with agricultural related thefts.

“It’s no surprise to anyone in this room that agricultural thefts, be it grain, livestock or equipment, are on the rise,” said Williamson.

“We’re looking for support to have an ag-related specialist from the RCMP help to address those issues.”

Northwest of Saskatoon, in the RM of Blaine Lake, thwarting rural crime has emerged as a top priority, said reeve William Chalmers.

Chalmers said limited police resources and slow response times have contributed to a level of frustration and anger among rural ratepayers.

“Unfortunately, people are frustrated,” he said.

“How many times are you going to (call the police) if no one shows up or if they don’t show up until hours later? That’s where, unfortunately … residents are starting to take things into their own hands and are starting to confront people.”

Chalmers said rural crimes in his area are varied, ranging from weekend antique hunters who pillage abandoned farmyards to thefts of fuel and crop damage caused by hunters.

One delegate expressed frustration over hunters who drive onto private farmland, leave ruts in the field and then drag a bagged animal out of the field causing damage to unharvested crops.

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Orb acknowledged that rural crimes are varied.

What everyone wants in rural Saskatchewan is a solution, and ideally a non-violent one.

“We’re not advocating … (for) farmers to be able to use their own weapons” to address rural crime, Orb said.

“(But) it’s something that I think we need to sit down (and talk to federal and provincial leaders about) … and maybe it’s something that our own members need to be more educated on.”

Orb said SARM directors will meet with delegates who passed crime related resolutions before approaching provincial or federal politicians to discuss potential solutions.

RCMP Cpl. Mel Zurevinsky told the convention that the Rural Crime Watch program is an effective way to deter criminals.

Crime Watch operates on the premise that a greater level of co-ordination and communication among rural residents allows them to identify unusual and activity more quickly and respond appropriately.

For example, co-ordination, communication, signage and the use of cameras and cell phones can help rural residents take a huge step forward in the efforts to combat rural crime.

Common sense also plays a role.

“You can’t leave quads in plain view, and you can’t leave riding lawn mowers in plain view because that criminal element is cruising our back roads, cruising our communities, looking for people that aren’t diligent about keeping those things under lock and key,” Zurevinsky said.

“(If you’re one of those people that leave doors unlocked and key in vehicles), thank your lucky stars that you haven’t been impacted yet,” he said.

“It’s only a matter of time.”

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  • Stephen Daniels

    So the RCMP rep thinks locks keep thieves out?And there i an example of why the RCMP don’t have a clue bout rural crime.

    • Harold

      I agree. The officer does not act in the same opinionated way when the officers own property is violated owing to the fact he/she has a personal investment in their property. This is why I, and other property owners should not give a damn about what any police officer or politician has to say about property rights and protection. Good people have given in to the opinions of the un-invested for far too long and we the good people are seeing the results of this folly. Good people outnumbering the bad have accepted stupid opinion to whereas we the many are hurt and injured by the few, and policed by the few.
      They from their Agencies and Organizations have continuously shown their inability to respond, yet claim that their opinions are of sound reasoning.
      Another reason that I don’t give a damn about what the RCMP say in this matter is because they are servants and not Lawyer’s or Politician’s and I don’t need the opinion of a Servant. The reason that I don’t give a damn about what a politician say’s is that we didn’t tell the Politician what to say. When the public starts telling the politicians what to believe and what to say is when the laws will reflect upon the good people. It is ridicules to assume that a policeman can reason out a property crime any more so than the property owner holding a gun to make a citizen’s arrest on his property. It should be known under revised Law that once you trespass upon someone else’s property, you are subject to arrest by the landowner in the force necessary to the full extent of the law. Property Right’s do not extend beyond your own property. Property owners must have equal force against the perpetrator of a crime and that includes revision of our gun law to provide equal force to the property owner. Police are only needed to take the Perp. away. (what is the message to the vandal and criminal; watch out for the Police?) The people tell the Politician’s what to believe and what to say because the politician’s in fact create and repeal the laws that land on the Judge’s Courtroom bench. The stupidest opinion that I’ve heard is “don’t take the law into your own hands!” Who were the law’s written to that I should not have the law in my hand like a criminal? The opinion is at the height of stupidity. Overall, I don’t give a damn about what was said at the Convention when the wrong guests were invited.
      The guests should have been the Solicitor General of Canada, the Solicitor General of Saskatchewan, the Minister of Justice- Saskatchewan, Sask MP’s, Sask MLA’s, Lawyer’s, and they facing the public, and not to hear public concerns, but to act upon them; overhead paid by the “nice guy” organization’s. I might further invite the Minister of Education and ask for a logical reason for why citizen’s arrest procedures are not taught in social studies classes. I would like watching a politician fumble in nonsense before the public orders the Minister to do so.

  • John Fefchak

    re: Media Release. NFU says SARM solution concerning, will not solve rural problems.

    No,…. it may not solve all rural problems, however lawbreakers are one problem that
    needs to be addressed.
    Canada’s arcane and ‘contradictory’ self-defense laws need to be changed to the benefit of those who are being violated by crime activities,rather than being charged by police, when defending their home, property and family from unwelcome intruders.
    The Harpers ministers office said it intends to re-introduce legislation to re-define self-defence, since the criminal code was written in 1892.
    Otherwise and until appropriate changes are legislated, the only other solution might be,is to put all your valuables out on the driveway , for the taking, if you intend to be away from your home for a lengthy period of time.
    At least, then, you won’t be charged by the police, your home might be saved from being trashed and Crown prosecutors will not be able to allege that you didn’t meet the definition of citizen’s arrest or that you were too aggressive and exceeded your dominance in home protection.